Kidney & Renal

The value of teamwork: national kidney pair donation program saves 1000 lives

Members of the St. Paul's Hospital renal transplant team along with Vancouver General Hospital, BC Transplant and other partners today marked the 1000th transplant as part of the Kidney Paired Donation program.

1,000 patients in Canada have received kidney transplants thanks to the kidney exchange program led by Canadian Blood Services, in collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health, and living donation and transplant programs across Canada.

These transplants, facilitated through the Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program, represent 1,000 people whose lives have been saved or forever changed by the gift of organ donation. The KPD program connects living donor programs across the country, enabling them to achieve together what no jurisdiction can do exclusively on its own.

“The program has enabled 1,000 heroes to gift the live-saving gift of a kidney transplant,” says Dr. John Gill, transplant nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital who helped advance the KPD. “That is truly something worth celebrating.”

Dr. John Gill, transplant nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital, had a role in advancing the Kidney Paired Donation Program.

“This achievement is a testament to the collaborative efforts of living donation and transplant programs, health-care professionals, and most importantly the generosity of living donors who made the selfless decision to donate their kidney for a loved one or a stranger,” says Dr. Graham Sher, Canadian Blood Services’ chief executive officer.

Launched in 2009 by Canadian Blood Services, the national KPD program matches suitable living donors to recipients across Canada. The program offers living kidney donors the possibility of helping someone they know, or even someone they don’t, receive a kidney transplant, even if they are not a match to the person they are trying to help.

Using a sophisticated matching algorithm, the program identifies compatible transplant opportunities created through chains of paired donations from otherwise incompatible pairs. These chains are also made possible thanks to non-directed anonymous donors (willing living donors without a specific intended recipient).

279 transplants via St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospitals

Dr. Jagbir Gill, physician lead for renal transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital, adds: “Between Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital, we have performed 279 transplants as part of the KPD program. 

Dr. Jag Gill, physician lead for renal transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital

“Some of these patients had been on the transplant list for over three years, waiting for a match. This program is live-saving resource for patients.”

Living donors make milestone possible

The success of the KPD program is due to hundreds of generous living-organ donors. In addition to the altruistic anonymous donors who make these kidney exchanges possible, reaching this milestone is a direct result of the collaborative efforts of living donation and transplant programs across Canada.

4000 people in Canada wait for an organ at any given time

At any given time, more than 4,000 people in Canada are waiting for an organ and 75 per cent of those waiting require a kidney. The KPD program is an example of how provincial health systems working together can improve the health of individuals beyond provincial borders and improve access to transplants for patients in Canada, no matter where they live. With all provincial living donation and transplant programs participating, the KPD program is able to identify matched donors and recipients from across Canada.

“Without this program, transplant candidates would never know they match a willing living donor in another city or province. It’s a true reflection of our commitment to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian,” adds Dr. Sher.

Facts and stats:

  • Of the 4,000 people in Canada awaiting an organ, more than 3,000 are on a wait list for kidney transplantation, hundreds die each year waiting.
  • Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital have performed 279 kidney transplants as part of the KPD program.
  • British Columbians have been participants in 225 live-saving KPD “chains”
  • The farthest distance a donor has travelled to donate a kidney is from Corner Brook, Nfld. to Vancouver, B.C.
  • The oldest person to donate a kidney through the KPD program was 76 years old. The oldest person to receive a kidney was 84 years old. The youngest recipient was two years old.
  • 182 kidneys have been shipped across Canada from donors to recipients. The farthest distance a kidney was shipped was approximately 3,965 km between Vancouver and Quebec City.
  • 220 non-directed anonymous donors (NDADs) have helped 681 people receive a kidney transplant by donating through the program.
  • 246 patients have received a transplant through the KPD program without ever having to start dialysis.
  • A living donor kidney transplant lasts, on average, 21 years, compared to 11 years for a deceased donor kidney transplant.  

Learn more about living donation and the KPD program by visiting Canadian Blood Services, BC Transplant, or VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation websites.